Death toll from tainted cantaloupes hits 28

If consumers are uncertain about the source of a cantaloupe, they are urged to ask their supermarket.

Story highlights

  • At least 133 cases have been reported in 26 states
  • The outbreak is not over, but new cases are on the decline
  • The tainted cantaloupes were recalled last month
  • The outbreak is the deadliest food-borne illness outbreak in the United States since 1998

The number of deaths linked to cantaloupes contaminated with the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria has risen to 28, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

A total of 133 people in 26 states have been infected, according to the CDC. Additionally, a woman who was pregnant at the time of her illness had a miscarriage.

Although health officials have said it is too early to declare the outbreak over, the number of new cases is falling.

"The peak in illnesses appears to have occurred from late August until the middle of September," Dr. Barbara Mahon of the CDC said last week, adding that additional monitoring will be needed for at least another two weeks.

The grower, Jensen Farms of Granada, Colorado, issued a voluntary recall of its Rocky Ford brand cantaloupes on September 14. The tainted cantaloupes should be off store shelves, the CDC has said.

Unsanitary conditions at the Colorado cantaloupe farm's packing facility are a possible contributing cause of one of the nation's worst outbreaks of listeria contamination in food, health officials have said.

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The listeria outbreak is the deadliest food-borne illness outbreak in the United States since 1998.

    Groups at high risk for listeria include older adults, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women.

    Cantaloupes from Jensen Farms should be disposed of immediately, even if some of them have been partially eaten, the agency recommended. If consumers are uncertain about the source of a cantaloupe, they are urged to ask their supermarket. If the source remains unknown, the fruit should be thrown out.

    Refrigerating a cantaloupe will not kill the bacteria, which can grow at low temperatures, and consumers should not try to wash off the bacteria.